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Farmers Park gets its dinner restaurant back

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The table is set for Springfield’s newest eatery, Progress. Its doors open tonight for dinner in Farmers Park in the space vacated by Metropolitan Farmer nine months ago.

Chef Daniel Ernce, Beverage Director Michael “Jersey” Schmitz and Front-of-house Manager Cassidy Rollins co-own and developed the restaurant from its early stages as a series of pop-up dinners by the same name. Those began in May 2016, and plans for the brick-and-mortar establishment started seven months ago.

“Progress really is a space for the community to come have dinner together,” Ernce said. “We want to be approachable, and we’re really passionate about our community.”

Menu items are meant to be shared, he said, to create a sense of community while dining. Prices ranges are $5-$10 for small plates and $30-$120 for family-style entrees.

The global dishes draw inspiration from Korean, Middle Eastern, Italian and Japanese flavors.

Ernce said one of his standout dishes is chicken toast. Progress’ menu describes the item as toasted bread topped with chicken pate, sliced apples, pickled fennel, pumpkin seeds and Thai basil.

“Everyone we’ve given it to has gone bananas over it,” Ernce said.

Another favorite of Ernce’s is bossam. The $74 family-style pork dish serves four and comes with accompaniments, such as kimchi puree and cucumber salad to “customize your experience,” the menu reads.

“It’s really delicious, fun, interactive and shareable,” Ernce said.

Ernce said he wants diners to view Progress as their “third space,” after home and work.

Pairing with the food is a large selection of wine and an artisanal cocktail menu. Schmitz described Progress as “wine forward” with over 125 bottles on the list, including 20 by-the-glass pours.

The owners did not disclose lease terms or startup costs. Progress occupies a 4,800-square-foot space in Farmers Park and employs 25. Metropolitan Farmer and its top-floor bar Barley, Wheat and Rye closed Jan. 27 amid a lawsuit seeking back rent and late fees.

The trio’s upstairs bar venture, Reverie, is slated to open this winter on the fourth floor of the westernmost Farmers Park building.

The co-owners partnered with O’Reilly Hospitality Management LLC to launch the ventures.

A bright spot of the brick-and-mortar location, Ernce said, is that at the end of dinner service the team doesn’t have to load up dirty dishes to be washed elsewhere, like with the pop-ups.

“That’s our favorite part about owning a restaurant — we don’t have to drive our dishes across town at the end of the night,” he said.

Schmitz said the owners intend to be active in the daily operations of Progress.

“We’ll be here as the face and personality,” he said. “You’ll have three motivated owners on the restaurant floor every evening.”

Reservations already are full for tonight’s dinner, Rollins said. Brunch begins Oct. 20.

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